The Vatican recently published a handbook that outlines how investigations and reporting of abuse are to be handled by priests, lawyers, and other members of the Catholic Church. The church has not created any new laws, but rather a guide for how these claims are to be investigated and reported.
Per NPR, Cardinal Louis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote “No new law is being promulgated, nor are new norms being issued. It is, instead, an ‘instruction manual’ that intends to help whoever has to deal with concrete cases from the beginning to the end.”
The new guidelines go further than ever before
Pope Francis issued a letter in May 2019 that instructed authorities in the church to report claims of sexual abuse when they met local law requirements. Now with this new guideline in place, church authorities are being asked to report claims of sexual abuse even if the laws do not require doing so.
“Even in cases where there is no explicit legal obligation to do so, the ecclesiastical authorities should make a report to the competent civil authorities,” the manual states, “if this is considered necessary to protect the person involved or other minors from the danger of further criminal acts.”
The document also explicitly asks those who are investigating claims of sexual abuse not to settle the matter by simply relocating the accused to another church or parish.
The seal of confession still holds
One sticking point, however, is the seal of confession. For years, the Catholic Church has claimed that confessors are bound by the seal not to report anything stated in confession. Breaking the seal will result in immediate excommunication from the Church. Under the new guidelines, the seal remains intact, and clergy are “under no obligation” to report abuse if the information comes to light during confession: “A confessor who learns of a [grave sin] during the celebration of the sacrament should seek to convince the penitent to make that information known by other means, in order to enable the appropriate authorities to take action.”
The experienced Memphis sexual abuse attorneys at Bailey & Greer, PLLC, understand how your life can change emotionally and mentally when sexually abused. We will do everything possible to investigate your claim and represent you in any claims against a religious organization. Call our office at 901-475-7434 to schedule a free consultation or complete a contact form online. We operate offices in Memphis and Jackson to serve clients throughout West Tennessee.
Since graduating magna cum laude in 2005 from the University of Memphis School of Law, Thomas has helped make a difference in the lives of victims of serious personal injury, wrongful death, and professional negligence. Thomas has extensive trial experience in both state and federal court. Among other victories in the courtroom, Thomas obtained several impressive jury verdicts and settlements
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